Recent Posts

Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism


Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Boston Conspiracy Theories Unite Americans and Russians

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This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Tsarnaev Conspiracy Theory Simulacrum“:

The bombings in Boston carried out by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev brought the United States and Russia a smidgeon closer. Few are betting the goodwill will last long. Nevertheless, the bombing was a reminder the two continental empires share a common cause against terrorism. But that is not all. The brothers’ Tsarnaev’s terrorist attack also proved that when faced with uncanny events, some Americans and Russians turn to conspiracy for an exegesis.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? According to a recent paper, conspiracy thinking helps “reinstall a sense of order and predictability in the aftermath of threatening societal events” by explaining and rationalizing “complex real-world phenomena into a coherent set of assumptions about the existence of a powerful and evil enemy.” Put simply, conspiracist ideation is a means to put a chaotic, complex, and unpredictable world back into a comprehensible and moral order. Conspiracy thinking provides psychological comfort.